News In Brief

The Justice Department filed suit to block the proposed $129 billion merger of communication giants WorldCom and Sprint, on grounds it would increase prices for millions of consumers. The development came a day after the European Union's antitrust chief said the companies had offered a "less than satisfactory" response to concerns that the combined company would have too great a control over access to the World Wide Web infrastructure.

Republican leaders in the House brokered a compromise to relax US sanctions on Cuba in order to allow direct sales of food and medicine. If passed in legislation, the agreement also would affect Iran, Libya, North Korea, and Sudan. But Cuba, the major beneficiary, would be subject to stricter regulations in regard to financing of the sales. The Senate voted overwhelmingly last year to ease the Cuban embargo, but the House refused to go along. The White House said President Clinton did not oppose the plan but was concerned about a provision that would limit presidential powers to manage the embargoes.

Voting 214 to 195, the House passed a $35 billion bill to fund the departments of State, Commerce, and Justice next year. Lawmakers approved the measure after blocking an effort to provide UN peacekeeping operations with $241 million more than the current $500 million. The House also defeated an amendment, 201 to 196, that would have prevented the Justice Department from implementing a safety pact between gun manufacturer Smith & Wesson and 411 communities. Citing cuts to some of his programs, Clinton has threatened to veto the bill. The Senate has not taken up the legislation yet.

Federal prosecutors said China and Taiwan were on a list of a "half-dozen" nations they suspect fired scientist Wen Ho Lee intended to aid with nuclear secrets. In Albuquerque, N.M., US District Judge James Parker ordered disclosure of all such nations by July 5 and also urged both sides to consider mediation on bail and plea terms. Lee, who worked for the Los Alamos laboratory, could face life in prison if convicted. Trial is set for Nov. 6.

The Navy said 162 demonstrators were arrested while trying to disrupt bombing exercises on Puerto Rico's Vieques range. In addition, the Navy said, two of its sailors were injured - although apparently not seriously - by protesters wielding steel bars. Residents have mounted opposition to the Navy's activities on the island after a civilian guard was killed by an errant bomb last year. After a cessation in activity, the Navy began shelling and bombing the range with nonexplosive "dummy" rounds Sunday.

Supporters said they'll try to revamp California's "blanket" primary system, after the Supreme Court ruled it violated political parties' rights. Californians to Protect the Open Primary said it will work to enact a system that meets court guidelines but still offers the state's almost 2 million independent voters the opportunity to help select candidates. But, barring quick approval, the state's 2002 primary elections will use traditional rules that allow a voter to choose candidates only from his or her own party.

Showing it's one idea that holds water, the new "unsinkable," self-righting vessel, Chinook, demonstrates its 360-degree roll capability on Lake Union in Seattle. The Chinook will help with transport on the treacherous Columbia River Bar.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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